Difficulties for Psychosemantics

When Bill Lycan visited the NEH Seminar in Mind and Metaphysics last week, he said the problem of intentionality is much harder than the problem of consciousness, because there are four terrible problems facing psychosemantics that no one even talks about:

1. Abstract concepts

2. Metaphors (according to Lycan, “nearly every thought you have is metaphorical”)

3. The fact that we can use the same name for different things

4. Propositional attitudes other than belief and desire and their varying directions of fit

(The links are to handouts by Lycan on the topic.)

It’s a bit of an overstatement to say that no one talks about these problems, but they certainly have not held center stage in discussions of psychosemantics.

One comment

  1. Anibal

    Many of the problems in psychosemantics that Professor Lycan adduce, exist because many philosophers of language are still missing one of the last revolution in philosophy. For example, within philosophy of mind or philosophy of psychology is unequivocally taken for granted that to do good philosophy one must to be aware of what neuroscience and its many branches discover one day and the other as well. But in the case of “philosophy of language” this is not the “mentality”, say, to look at language as a function of the brain. Rather, philosophers of language continue to see language as an abstract symbol system instead of lively activity of our brain machinery encompassing sensory, motor and higher cognitive functions (e.g. lexical memory).
    For the 21st century in philosophy of language we have to shift the “abstractionist paradigm”, dating back to Plato´s Cratilo, passing by Chomsky outstanding formalizations, to the present fashion in linguistics; and
    take into the account the brain too, when doing philosophy of language.

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